I hate to say this, but America no longer has two parties devoted to a democratic system of self-government. We have a Democratic Party, which — notwithstanding a few glaring counter-examples such as what the Democratic National Committee did to Bernie in 2016 — is still largely committed to democracy. And we have a Republican Party, which is careening at high-velocity toward authoritarianism. Okay, fascism.
What occurred in Nashville last week is a frightening reminder of the fragility of American democracy when Republicans obtain supermajorities and no longer need to work with Democratic lawmakers.
The two Tennessee Democrats expelled from the Tennessee House were not accused of criminal wrongdoing or even immoral conduct. Their putative offense was to protest Tennessee’s failure to enact stronger gun controls after a shooting at a Christian school in Nashville left three 9-year-old students and three adults dead.
They were technically in violation of House rules, but the state legislature has never before imposed so severe a penalty for rules violations. In fact, over the past few years, a number of Tennessee legislators have kept their posts even after being charged with serious sexual misconduct. And the two who were expelled last week are Black people, while a third legislator who demonstrated in the same manner but was not expelled is white. [Continue reading…]
The world of politics experienced a collective shock this week as Tennessee Republicans expelled two young, Black, Democratic House members for protesting gun laws on the chamber floor after a deadly school shooting in Nashville.
But for those who have closely watched the chamber in recent years, the events were of little surprise. The place has been defined by partisan vitriol, pique, scandal, racism and Olympic-level pettiness for years.
I know. I covered it.
The protest and subsequent expulsion over decorum rules took place in a chamber where a GOP member, for years, rang a cowbell every day of session as a raucous, attention-grabbing substitute for applause.
When I covered the Tennessee Capitol from 2018 to 2021, the family-values espousing Republican House speaker had to explain why his text message trail included discussions of pole-dancing women and his chief of staff’s sexual encounters in the bathroom of a hot chicken restaurant.
After a Republican lawmaker was accused of sexually assaulting 15- and 16-year-old girls he had taught and coached, he was made chairman of the House education committee.
Protesters filled the halls week after week, year after year, calling for the removal of the bust of the Ku Klux Klan’s first Grand Wizard, a piece of art featured prominently between the House and Senate chambers. Democrats pushed for its removal, while Republicans resisted. [Continue reading…]